Ideally the tutors would be young men, not more than two or three years older than their pupils, who had recently finished their own course of studies at the University and gained honours in their exams, or else were (or had recently been) holders of scholarships.
They would be ‘half companions, half advisers of their pupils, that is, of the students; and while their formal office would be that of preparing them for the Professors’ Lectures, and the Examinations […], they would be thrown together with them in their amusements and recreations; and, gaining their confidence from their almost parity of age, and their having so lately been what the others are still, they may be expected to exercise a salutary influence over them, and will often know more about them than anyone else.’ (Report for the Year 1854–55)
As at Oxford the ‘real working men were, not the Professors, but the Tutors’; they ‘will be the real strength of the institution’. Being ‘young men who go through the drudgery of preparing the students for examination, and see that they profit by the Professors’ Lectures’, the tutors needed to live alongside their pupils. ‘They will have nothing to do with discipline, but be as much as possible the friends of their charge. They will not be responsible for their conduct, but for their intellectual proficiency’.
Newman expected them ‘to gain the confidence and intimacy of the young men – and, in this way, to smooth the Dean’s work’, hence the insistence that they ought to have nothing to do with discipline, ‘for else, good bye to the confidence I speak of’.
While the college was the main setting for general discipline (in the wider sense of ‘training’), the college tutorial was the ideal vehicle for the student’s intellectual discipline: ‘his diligence will be steadily stimulated; he will be kept up to his aim; his progress will be ascertained, and his week’s work, like a labourer’s, measured. It is not easy for a young man to determine for himself whether he has mastered what he has been taught; a careful catechetical training, and a jealous scrutiny into his power of expressing himself and of turning his knowledge to account, will be necessary, if he is really to profit from the able Professors whom he is attending; and all this he will gain from the College Tutor.’ (Rise and progress of universities)
Newman’s idea of the tutor’s role touches on much that makes him special as an educational thinker – and much that is characteristic of him as a person: his recognition of the importance of education for the development of young people; his love of his fellow human beings; his caritas; his stress on the formative value of personal influence; his appreciation for the personal element in the process of understanding and embracing knowledge and faith; his patience with human weakness in the fitful process of maturation; his grasp of the obligations and rewards of the universal; his insistence on the practical. In particular, Newman held that moral and religious truths were best communicated and most likely to stir the heart by the power of personal influence, and that tutorials should be conducted on this basis. These views were not the outcome of research or reading, but rather the result of many years in education, during which he had tried to live out his high ideals and to observe critically and ponder on what he saw around him.